I went to get some groceries this morning, and I went to a store with an older cash register system. Normally, they give me both a cash register receipt and a separate receipt for running my debit card.
I did not notice it at the time, but in retrospect I do not believe they gave me a debit card receipt this morning. I put the cash register receipt into my checkbook so that I could enter the amount later. My total purchase was $27.84.
This afternoon, I happened to go to my credit union website to check my bank balance. The website showed a $30.84 charge from that store. This was not a hold or pre-authorization. Sometimes gas stations or restaurants will put a hold on your account that’s different from the final charge that actually goes through, but this was not that. This was the actual, final charge, and it was three dollars more than I was supposed to have paid.
I went back to the store just now and asked to speak to the manager. He was very nice, paid me the $3 in cash, and made a copy of the cash register receipt and the bank website printout for his files.
If it had been a one-digit difference – $28.84 or even $37.84 – I would say it was just a case of her finger slipping as she punched in the number. And maybe it still was just an honest mistake. But it smelled funny for some reason, especially since I don’t think she gave me the debit card receipt.
Well, if there really is funny business going on, it will be found out eventually. If it was just an honest mistake, the store did all they could to make it right, and I appreciate that.
I’ve been feeling restless tonight – llike I should be working on something. After Relay For Life, and the Lake Junaluska trip, and the chili cookoff, I’m in kind of letdown mode – the next thing I have to look forward to is my Sierra Leone trip in November.
A year or two ago, I started pulling and adapting some old sermons, blog posts and other material with the idea of possibly self-publishing a book of faith-based essays. I don’t know whether there’d be any market for it, but – as with my Bad Self-Published Novel – it would be a low-risk enterprise, as much for the challenge as anything else.
So I started re-looking at some of the content tonight. It’s still a little short; I need to write a few more things exclusively for the book, if that’s what I want to do.
For the past few years, I served as a judge at both the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon chili cookoffs held each July in Shelbyville. I always dreamed of entering, but it’s actually a pretty complicated and expensive process. This year, though, I took the plunge.
As you know if you followed my Facebook posts, it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. I wasn’t happy with my entry and thus wasn’t surprised when I didn’t place last night, and when I got the chance to see my judges’ comments today there were some negative comments – at least one of which seemed to be the exact opposite of what I thought was wrong with the chili.
Anyway, I had a good time, at least before seeing those judges’ comments this morning, but I was also dog tired. Going into the process, my original plan had been to only cook on Friday, and then – if I happened to get lucky Friday – I might choose to cook on Saturday. During the evening yesterday, I considered coming back and cooking today even if I didn’t place, just because I was enjoying it. But I was frustrated with my final result, and, as I say, dog tired. Even before the final results were announced, I packed up the canopy tent I had been loaned rather than leaving it on-site (they had told us we could leave tents overnight and there would be security). I knew I wouldn’t be cooking the next day.
I laid down on the couch as soon as I got home and fell asleep until 12:30. Then I went up and got into bed. At 1:30, I started thinking about the leftover propane cans still in my car. What if I slept late in the morning? How hot would my car get? Would the propane tanks explode, destroying my car right in the apartment parking lot? I got up, went downstairs and brought the propane inside.
Anyway, here are some random observations.
* Chili cookoffs are expensive. For an International Chili Society-sanctioned cookoff, you have to join ICS, over and above the entry fee of the cookoff. Of course, you’ve also got ingredients – not only for the batch you prepare at the cookoff but for all of the ones you prepare in your kitchen getting ready. I ordered most of my herbs and spices from my favorite mail-order house (although I’ve got quite a bit left for use in regular cooking, so that’s some benefit). I was able to borrow a Coleman stove and a canopy tent, but I ended up buying a cooler (which I needed anyway) and a little folding table (which I thought would be a good thing to have).
The ICS membership is annual, so if I compete next year I’ll have to renew about that time. It would be nice if I could find another cookoff to compete in between now and then, to leverage a little bit of my membership fee. There aren’t any too close by, unfortunately.
* The atmosphere at the cookoff was wonderful. Yes, there was serious competition going on. Some of the cooks who came to Shelbyville from as far away as Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Mississippi were trying to place so that they could qualify for the ICS World Championship in Reno, Nevada, in October. They were serious about their cooking, but that didn’t keep them from being friendly, helpful and encouraging.
* Wes Carlson of Illinois, who was the ICS world champion for green chili in 2004, came back again this year to serve as head judge and work with local organizer Calvin Cannon in putting on the event. I had worked with Wes as a judge last year. When I raised my hand to identify myself as a rookie at the cook’s meeting last night. Several people yelled at me about salt. I honestly thought at the time that they were joking – that maybe it was some sort of tradition to try to trick first-timers into over-salting their chili. I do like salty foods – too much for my own good – but last year, one of the batches I tasted as a judge was so salty even I didn’t care for it. I had decided prior to the cookoff that I would have enough salt, but not too much.
But when Wes stopped by to check on me later, he actually mentioned salt again – and I could tell that he was serious. Even so, I thought I had it covered, and told him so.
Anyway, one of the judges’ comments I got: “not enough salt.” That may have also figured in to the judge who called my chili “bland.” I did not think it was bland; if anything, I though I’d gone overboard with a couple of added flavors. I added a little lime juice right at the very end of cooking just to wake things up, for example, and thought it might have been too much. I wasn’t happy with my entry, but I didn’t think it was bland by any stretch of the imagination.
* Another judges’ comment: “too thick.” This one, I’ll own up to. Part of the problem is that I was only entered in one category – red chili. I should have waited longer than I did to start my chili, and for a while I could not get the flame on the Coleman stove as low as I really wanted it without it going out. I eventually compensated by putting the dutch oven off-center rather than directly over the burner. I added water to the chili at several points to thin it out, but apparently not enough – and perhaps I should have added a little less masa flour at the end.
By the way, one of the other competitors saw me adding the masa and said she’d switched to rice flour as a thickener because it was flavorless. But to me, the taste of masa is actually a part of what I expect in chili.
* Back when I envisioned cooking in a chili cookoff, I thought I might try to recruit one of my nephews or a kid from church to be a second pair of hands. I really wish I had done that. I had to make about five trips from my car to my site unloading, carrying heavy items like the canopy tent and the cooler, and the same thing loading up at the end of the evening. Also, at one point Wes invited me to be a judge for the green chili category (which I had not entered), but I didn’t want to leave my chili unattended. Most of the other competitors had some sort of help – spouses, kids, friends, or so on. If I cook next year, I’m going to try to recruit a helper.
* This morning, I stopped by to get a few photos for the paper and also to check on those judges’ comments. But I was still kind of tired, and really didn’t feel like hanging around. I wish I had gotten the chance, with my new perspective, to maybe talk to a few of the other teams, and I probably would have been roped into judging had I been there this afternoon. (I particularly missed judging the salsa category this year.)
* In years past, I would be involved in the Nashville Symphony concert, Relay For Life and Mountain T.O.P. trips, all within a six- or eight-week period, all of them high points of my year, and then I’d feel kind of let down afterward. Well, the symphony concert is no more, and I didn’t go to Mountain T.O.P. this year. This year, I went from “The Foreigner” to Relay For Life to the Lake Junaluska trip to the chili cookoff. But the letdown is the same, and I think it’s started, especially since I feel like the chili cookoff didn’t go the way I wanted it to. I’ve been feeling cranky and out-of-sorts today. The one good part is that I can start looking forward to my Sierra Leone trip in November.
It was raining when we got up this morning, and so the leaders talked seriously about calling off our trip to Sliding Rock, not only because of rain at the location (after all, the kids were going to get wet anyway) but because of the possibility of rain during our drive down there and back, on windy mountain roads in (mostly) rented vans.
But the rain seemed to take a break, and so we decided to go on — a little earlier than the original schedule. That turned out to be a good thing; our group got to Sliding Rock early, and the kids got some time in before the big crowd showed up. The sun was out for most of the time we were there and there was no rain … but just wait.
I did not slide — and I was not alone; I believe Alden was the only adult who slid out of either the First UMC or Isle Of Hope UMC groups. It looked like fun — but the pool of water at the bottom was quite cold, and I was still feeling a little beaten up from tubing yesterday.
When we first pulled into the parking lot, the very next vehicle after us turned out to have Bedford County plates. I eventually figured out that it was the Osterhaus family. I know Emily Osterhaus, who works in the local extension office with the 4-H program. I didn’t get to speak to her today, though, just her husband. I think I saw her sliding, though.
I also saw two other familiar faces today at Sliding Rock — these two, I was expecting. My long-time Mountain T.O.P. friend Sonja Goold and her husband recently moved to Brevard, North Carolina, and as luck would have it Kim Lachler, another Mountain T.O.P. friend, was visiting her. We made arrangements before the trip to connect at Sliding Rock, which Sonja had been wanting to visit anyway. Sonja and Kim had both been to last week’s Mountain T.O.P. AIM event, and so they filled me in on all the details. It was great seeing them.
After the teens had their fill of sliding, we drove to a picnic area in the forest, where we’d reserved a covered pavilion. We had just finished eating and were thinking about getting underway when it started to drizzle. I walked across a large field to the restrooms, and just about the time I got inside it started pouring. I finished my business, then came outside and stood under an awning the eaves, watching the group from afar to see what they were going to do. Finally, the rain let up a little bit and they started heading in my direction (the restroom was close to the parking area). Fortunately, the rain wasn’t too bad on the drive back. (I was not driving our van; Karen Griffin was.)
We got back to camp and I walked up the street to the Lake Junaluska bookstore and cafe, really the only chance I’ve had to explore any of the Lake Junaluska campus. I had a frosty frappucino with chocolate chips — I don’t drink much coffee, but this was quite refreshing and I figured I needed the caffeine at this point. On my way up and back, I walked past the World Methodist Museum, which I had really wanted to see but which is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so I’ll have to catch it on a future trip.
Tonight, we will walk to a cross on the Junaluska property. This closing ceremony, as Alden was describing it today, is quite a tradition for our senior partners from Isle Of Hope. We will get on the road tomorrow, headed for home. It’s been a great trip.
I felt like such an idiot yesterday for having worried so much about white-water rafting. As I posted yesterday, I had a blast.
I’d never been tubing, either, but it sounded like it would be a lot more relaxing, and nowhere near as challenging.
One continues the journey of self-discovery throughout one’s life, and today I discovered that I am not cut out for tubing. Everything I worried about from white-water rafting came true in tubing. I was an ungainly idiot just getting into the tube, and scratched up my left leg at that point. I kept getting turned around backwards and couldn’t figure out a good way to turn myself around, so I kept getting into the wrong areas — stuck on rocks or flipping over in the rapids. I flipped over at least three times, scratching my right leg even worse than I’d scratched the left one.
Later, several others would try to tell me that they, too, had had trouble, either today or else the first time they’d gone tubing. But I was having worse trouble, as evidenced by the fact that I was lagging way behind the rest of the group. Alden, our leader, and Tori, one of the youth, hung back so that they could keep me in view, which made me feel guilty.
Finally, after about the third time I flipped, I was gasping for breath and just feeling completely frustrated, completely clumsy and fatter than Fatty Arbuckle.
I stood there, in the current, trying to catch my breath. I was at a place where there was a way back up to the path.
I heard Alden’s voice: “I think you’re going to have to walk it.” I did not realize at the time that Alden was talking to Tori, telling her that a particular area was so shallow that Tori would have to pick up her tube and cross it that way. I thought Alden was talking to me, confirming that I was just so incredibly bad at tubing that now was the time to give up.
I stood there for a few minutes. Alden got out of her tube, went ashore, and walked back to where I was. She clarified that she was not telling me to stop, and in fact she encouraged me to continue, saying that we’d passed the worst of the rapids and it was much easier from that point downstream. But by that time my mind was made up. I did not want to get back in that tube, I did not want to feel like I was holding everyone else back; I just wanted to go.
I got out of the water and made the walk, which seemed like a mile or more, back to the tube rental place. (On the way up, we had actually driven part of the way, but those vans were now already back at the rental place, where we would eat lunch.) It was a long walk, carrying a light but ungainly tube, and I think I’d pulled some muscle in my hip at some point while I was in the water. It actually hurts worse now than it did then; I especially felt it when getting into and out of the van for the ride back to Junaluska. I was berating myself pretty much the whole walk back.
When I got back to the tube rental place, the first few tubers from Isle of Hope were starting to arrive. Kim Floyd, a delightful woman from Isle of Hope who has been doing our food service this weekend, put disinfectant and Neosporin on my shins and taped a big piece of gauze on my right one. I was really grateful for her help and kindness.
I eventually got over feeling sorry for myself. The kids had a great time, and many of them eagerly went back up the hill to do it all over again after lunch. And that’s who this trip is about, after all — the kids.
We had pre-ordered hamburgers for lunch from the snack bar there at the tube rental place, and they were quite good. Later, if we wanted, we could buy ice cream from that same snack bar. I had some Mayfield blueberry cheesecake, and it was terrific. There’s nothing like a couple of scoops of ice cream to put you in a better mood.
Sometimes it feels like bars of steel
I cannot bend with my hands
Oh-I worry too much
Somebody told me that I worry too much
— From “Worry Too Much,” by Mark Heard
One of the reasons I chose “Lake Neuron” as a domain name was a deprecating reference to the fact that I sometimes tend to overthink things. That was certainly the case with white water rafting. Being fatter than I once was, older and less flexible than I once was, I imagined any number of ways that white-water rafting could go wrong for me, starting with stepping into the raft.
Not one of them happened. In fact, I had a fabulous time white-water rafting.
Backing up for those who don’t know, I’m here in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, for a trip with the middle school youth from my home church, First United Methodist in Shelbyville. Lake Junaluska is a Methodist retreat and conference facility. It’s huge, sort of a small town wrapped around a lake, and there are various events, big and small, going on at any given time. A lot of United Methodist ministers retire here.
Our trip here is a joint venture between First UMC and Isle of Hope UMC from Savannah, Georgia. The reason for this is that our director of children and youth, Alden Procopio, is originally from Savannah and Isle of Hope and participated with them in years past. They have a very large group; we’re sort of the junior partner, with only three adults and six kids.
In my raft today, I was with two of our First UMC kids, Grayson and Kenny, and an adult (my roommate here at Lagoalinda, Henry) and two boys from Isle of Hope, plus our guide, a red-headed woman named Katie. It was loads of fun, and I felt like such an idiot for worrying so much about it. The safety briefing today, of course, was Ground Zero for worry-warts; they talk about how you react to various situations, which just reminds you of all the ways in which the trip could conceivably go wrong.
I was in such a good mood that I spent money on a USB with 16 photos of our raft — too much money, but, hey, it’s the only proof I have. I can look at those photos for a long time to come.
Later in the day, we went to downtown Waynesville, the city closest to Lake Junaluska. It’s got a really lovely and active downtown area — it reminds me a little of Fayetteville, North Carolina, where my brother Michael and his family live. We went in this place called Mast General Store — it’s part of a chain. Upstairs, it’s a clothing store, but downstairs, there are various other types of merchandise including the biggest selection of candy I have ever seen — big old bushels of bulk candy, plus all sorts of other types of candy — lollipops made with maple sugar, PEZ dispensers, candy bars you haven’t seen in ages and assumed had gone out of production, and lots more. It was a hoot.
Also at Mast, I tried a Blenheim hot ginger ale. This is a North South Carolina product which I first learned about in, I guess, the late 1970s, when Charles Kuralt did an “On The Road” segment on them for CBS News. It’s not like any other ginger ale you’ve ever tasted — tangy, but with a heavy ginger bite. They have “hot” and “not” varieties, in case you want the ginger a little more subdued.
Tomorrow, we will go tubing, and then on Monday, we will go to Sliding Rock near Brevard, North Carolina, a natural feature which is a little like a water slide.
We do have programming — a guest speaker who talks to the kids in the morning, before we head out, and then again in the evening. He’s been great so far as well. He has an interesting background — converted to Christianity from a family of Jews.
Anyway, I’m having a great time. Like Warmth In Winter, it feels more like a vacation than like being a chaperone, but Alden says I’m doing fine. In any case, if it weren’t for my presence, Grayson and Kenny couldn’t be here, because our church rules require that for this type of overnight trip, you have to have a male chaperone if there are any male campers (and vice versa).
I’m looking forward to a trip I’m taking with the First United Methodist Church – Shelbyville middle school youth next month to Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
I’ve heard of Lake Junaluska for years and always wanted to visit; it’s one of the most famous Methodist retreat centers and headquarters of the World Methodist Council. It’s owned by the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
This being a youth trip, we will get to enjoy some of the surrounding area in the mountains. This will include tubing and white-water rafting, neither of which I’ve ever done before, and a natural rock water slide. We’ll also have some programming with a special guest speaker.
There’s a museum at Lake Junaluska about the history of Methodism, but the musuem closes at 4 each day and, according to the agenda our youth director has sent out, our free time periods all seem to start around that time. So I may not make it to the museum. That’s sad, because — by sheer coincidence — I’m currently reading Wesley And The People Called Methodists, by Richard P. Heitzenrater, a history of the origins of Methodism which was recommended at the last lay servant class I took. But, hey, there’s always next time.
I had a great time as a chaperone with our youth (both middle and high school) at Warmth In Winter in January, and I expect to have a great time on this trip as well. We have a great group of kids at First UMC. This trip will be in partnership between First UMC and our youth director’s home church in Savannah, Ga., Isle Of Hope UMC. So we’ll meet new people as well. We’ll all be staying at the Lagoalinda Inn at Lake Junaluska.
ABC is bringing back not one but two of my childhood favorite game shows this summer. Well, three, actually.
I grew up in the early 1970s heyday of daytime network game shows, before syndicated talk shows and expanded morning shows took over. I was, and am, a game show geek. Deal with it.
First up, on June 14, will be a revival of “To Tell The Truth” hosted by Anthony Anderson. This show has been on and off various times over the past five or six decades. The original was hosted by Bud Collyer, but the version I remember, from the late 60s and early 70s, was hosted by Garry Moore (and then, in its last season or two, by Joe Garagiola, due to Moore’s health problems). The movie “Catch Me If You Can” begins with an actual clip from the Garagiola era, only with the real Frank Abagnale digitally replaced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
The three regular panelists during this era were Bill Cullen, Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle, with the fourth seat on the panel filled by a different celebrity each week. Betty White, who will be a regular panelist on the new version, was sometimes a guest in that fourth seat. (She was connected to the Goodson-Todman game show empire through her husband, the wonderful “Password” host Allen Ludden.)
The most recent version, in the 1990s, was hosted by John O’Hurley and had Paula Poundstone and the late Meshach Taylor as panelists.
If you’re too young to remember this show, the premise is based on a guest with an unusual occupation, experience or story. Let’s say that someone named John X. Kadiddlehopper was the first person to swim the length of the Mississippi River upstream. At the start of a game, three people would be brought out.
“Number one, what is your name?” the host (or, in some versions, the announcer) would ask.
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“Number two, what is your name?”
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“And number three, what is your name?”
“My name is John X. Kadiddlehopper .”
“Well, panelists, all three of these men claim to be swimmer John X. Kadiddlehopper, but only one of them is sworn to tell the truth.” The host then reads a first-person affidavit, signed by John X. Kadiddlehopper, describing who he is and what he’s done. Each of the panelists then gets a period of time to ask questions of the three people on stage, in an attempt to figure out which one is actually John X. Kadiddlehopper.
The three players – the real John X. Kadiddlehopper, and the two impostors – are trying to fool the panel. The real John X. Kadiddlehopper is supposed to answer questions truthfully, but the impostors can say whatever they think will be believable.
Once all four panelists have had a chance to question the players, each of them casts a vote for who they think is the real John X. Kadiddlehopper. Then, the host asks, “Will the real John X. Kadiddlehopper please stand up?”, a phrase which started on “To Tell The Truth” and went on to enter the lexicon. The three players earn money for each wrong vote by the panel, usually with some sort of bonus if they manage to fool all four panelists. In some later versions, including the John O’Hurley version, the studio audience was also polled, and their collective response counted as a fifth vote.
I enjoyed O’Hurley, Poundstone and Taylor in the 90s – Taylor was a razor-sharp interrogator, almost too good. But the producers, in an attempt to compete with salacious daytime talk shows, seemed obsessed with booking players with sex-related stories – the sex coach to the stars, that sort of thing. They just went overboard.
The Anthony Anderson version sounds like its angle on freshening up the format is more comedy-related. Anderson’s mother Doris will serve as scorekeeper (why do you need a scorekeeper?) and get to ask a question during each game. The celebrity panelist with the worst record at the end of each show will have to tweet a lie about themselves. NeNe Leakes will be the other regular panelist besides Betty White.
I’m keeping an open mind.
Later in the month, on June 26, ABC will premiere a block of back-to-back summer game shows. There will be “Celebrity Family Feud,” hosted by Steve Harvey; “The $100,000 Pyramid,” hosted by Michael Strahan; and “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin.
“Pyramid” has been on TV several times lately, so even though it’s another of my childhood favorites it’s not as much of a novelty to have it back. Donny Osmond hosted a syndicated version from 2002 to 2004, while Game Show Network did its own version in 2012, just four years ago.
No, the big news here is “Match Game,” hosted by Alec Baldwin. Whether or not it’s successful will no doubt depend on the celebrity panelists, and I don’t think ABC has announced them yet. In fact, on the promo that ABC ran tonight, they had actual clips of “Feud” and “Pyramid,” while “Match Game” was represented by generic footage of Baldwin standing before a white background.
“Match Game” has become a part of popular culture, such that even young people are vaguely familiar with it, through reruns on GSN, parodies on “Saturday Night Live,” and so on. So I don’t really need a long and detailed explanation, but the basic idea is that the game is based on sentences like “Dumb Dora is so dumb, she thinks the Golden Globe Award is presented to the person with the best [BLANK].” The players try to match the answers written down by a panel of celebrities.
The secret of the iconic 1970s version of the show, of course, was the byplay among the celebrities – particularly the three regular panelists (out of 6): Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson. As with most game shows, a week’s worth of shows were shot in a day, and apparently alcohol was available with lunch, so fans of the show have noted that the celebrities are considerably less-inhibited for the Thursday and Friday shows for a given week than they were on Monday and Tuesday, if you catch my drift.
We’ll see what celebrities turn up on this new version, and whether or not there’s any chemistry.
By the way, there have been several attempts to revive “Match Game” over the years, and one of them is widely-acknowledged to be one of the worst game shows ever: “The Match Game / Hollywood Squares Hour,” an unfortunate and poorly-executed attempt to mash together two incompatible celebrity game-show formats. Gene Rayburn, who had hosted “Match Game” back in the 1970s, hosted the “Match Game” half of the program, with Jon “Bowser” Bauman of Sha Na Na as one of the celebrities. Then, for the “Hollywood Squares” half of the show, they would switch places. Bauman hosted, awkwardly, and Rayburn served as one of the celebrity squares.
“The Foreigner” is being directed by Tony Davis, who normally heads up the outstanding drama program, Smokestack Theatre, at Community High School. I occasionally talked to Tony in the past about getting one of Community’s plays into the newspaper, but I can’t say that I knew him, and I’d never worked with him on a play before.
I certainly didn’t know that he has an identical twin brother. At today’s rehearsal, the first time we’ve gone through the full play, start to finish, we had a special guest in the seats: Tony’s twin brother, whom he introduced as Jerry Davis.
I, too, have a brother who shares my love of the theater. My brother Michael and his wife, Kelly, live in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Mike has appeared in plays at the Gilbert Theater and with Sweet Tea Shakespeare.
However, his most recent project was an hour’s drive away from Fayetteville … he was one of a number of actors, from a number of North Carolina theater groups, who participated in a Shakespeare festival organized by … wait for it … the Burning Coal Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina.